We Would Love
to Keep in Touch!
Editor: The following are notes taken from a YouTube Presentation by Sr. Carol Zinn, SSJ, MTh, PhD. (22:41 minutes)

Untitled 3The First International La Salette Lay Encounter met on the Holy Mountain in Sept. 2011Aware that there are an ever-growing number of Associates of Religious Orders in the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe, it would be good to learn more about this special vocation, for that is what it truly is!

In this brief presentation, we will treat the historical and contemporary perspectives of this ministry, the call to the mission and charism of the community, the identity and important boundaries of Associates, and casting a wide net as Associates become more numerous and more different from one another.

An Historical Perspective

Associate Life is a vocation. However the general impression in the past has been that is only “religious and clergy” have a vocation.

Historically, we are all the followers of Jesus. Everywhere he went, countless people ministered to him and his disciples. There was always a group of people around Jesus. And in religious life, there were always those people who associated with religious communities.

Another myth is that due to lack of religious, laity are being welcomed into close association with the religious. That is not to reason for welcoming associates to connect with our communities.

In North America, religious forgot their own story. So associates disappeared historically but not in reality.

Though we religious (consecrated life) and associates are both called to the same mission and charism of a certain community. However, historically, the vocation of associates is an individual vocation. For religious, their vocation is a call to common life.

Note also that, strictly speaking, we don’t have a charism; rather the charism has us! The charism is a gift, given through a founder, for a particular time, in a particular culture, and it is then reaproppriated. The charism belongs to the world and religious communities hold the responsibility for the charism but the charism isn’t theirs.

A Contemporary Perspective

Untitled 1The first phase of the La Salette Apparition – Mary seated, weeping (published for German Pilgrims)This vocation is a call to the mission and charism. When we feel called to connect with a community’s charism, this means that we already have the charism and join with others who also have it.

NACAR (the North American Conference of Associates and Religious) is celebrating their 20th anniversary. They offer us many materials as well as a picture of our reality; in 1980’s-1996, there were about 20,000 Associate; today there are about 56,000 association in North America. In this very short period of time, this Associate vocation has grown and being tracked by NACAR.

In the same way, the number of consecrated sisters, in 2015 in the U.S., there were about 49,000 sisters; it is projected that by 2025, there will be about 29,000 sisters. The associates are not replacing the sisters; rather God is calling us to a gospel life through the door of a certain charism.

The Call to the Mission and Charism

Religious and associates are both called to the same Mission and Charism of the community, not to the individual religious members. If we were attracted to the mission and charism because of a certain religious, we are being primarily drawn to the mission and charism. The charism is lived out both in consecrated life and in associate life. We both has a call but live it out differently.

What associates are NOT:
  • It is not a club, like belonging to a fitness center;
  • It is not primarily an alumni association, although some members might have been consecrated religious.
  • It is not for “wannabe” religious, or the “junior varsity or second string” of the community;
  • It is not a member of the congregation;
  • It is not a call to live religious life.
Untitled 4The second phase of the La Salette Apparition – Mary speaking with the children
What associates ARE:
  • • It is a call to the mission and charism of the community;
  • • A call to prayer, community and ministry;
  • • It is a call that responds to the mission and chrism in a particular time and culture;
  • • It is a connection, a relationship to a religious institute;
  • • It is a movement and not a formal institution; it changes as the times change;

Identity and Boundaries

What makes people members or what makes them associates?

Religious take vows with consecrated life, with shard life, with a formal accepted Constitution Rule; their life involves governance and finances are all according to the Rule.

Associates may have guidelines and policies, but they have a prayer life, a spirituality, ministry and community;

What both have are the spirituality and the mission and charism, yet each vocation is absolutely separate and viable.

The Future – Casting a Wide Net

Untitled 5The third phase of the La Salette Apparition – Mary’s AssumptionThere is no such thing as a “co-member” of a religious community; religious have the vows, community life, etc.; associates live a different life.

This is where this vision for the future of associates seems to be going. We are called to cast the “net” very wide; that is, the “net” of the mission and charism thus making the charism available to more people. Some congregations are forming a whole new vocation and formation program to live the mission and charism. Note that it is not a formation program specifically for the vocation to be associates but rather formation to explore to what vocation they are being called;

All this information is being offered to help assist all of us to understand what it means to be connected with the mission and charism of an individual community.

Discussion/Conversation questions: (thinking of the future of the Associate Vocation)
  • What next steps can be taken to further the La Salette mission and charism through an Associate community?
  • How would you write or describe your vision of an Associate community?
  • If you feel called to this vocation, please contact a local La Salette Ministry for more information.